France at War

(notes by Max Rives and Alastair Wilson)


In 1915, in the second year of the Great War, Kipling made a tour as a journalist on the front of some of the French armed forces. His report of what he had seen of the military activity was published in six articles in the Daily Telegraph, in England, and in the New York Sun, on the same dates in September 1915, 6th, 8th, 10th, 13th, 15th, and 17th.  (John Kipling was killed at the Battle of Loos on September 27th).

They were collected in booklets in both countries, with some small textual variations.

We have used the English version in these notes to refer to page and line numbers.
The articles are collected in Scribner’s Edition vol. 34, the Burwash Edition vol 20, and the Sussex Edition vol 26 page 65.

The text itself is preceded by the full quotation of the well-known and beautiful poem “France”, written two years before, in 1913, on the occasion of a visit of the French Président de la République Raymond Poincaré to England. [M.R/]

The writing of the articles

Kipling was in France 12-26 August, 1915, in company with Perceval Landon.  During this time he visited French troops fighting at the southern end of the trench line, which then extended from the Channel coast, just inside Belgium, to the Swiss border.  (The British sector was the northern quarter of the line, near the Channel coast.)

In no part of the articles did he give any precise indication of where he had been – no doubt due to war-time censorship – but Pinney, “Letters, Volume 4”, has a photograph (right) of Kipling, Landon, and their French guide, an Artillery officer of Scottish descent, named Monroe, relaxing (probably in an estaminet) in a small town called Thann, in the Département of Haut-Rhin.   It lies about 18 miles east of the present border with Germany, and 20 miles north of the Swiss border.

In 1914, it lay in Germany, since, as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the province of Alsace, in which Thann lay, had been ceded to Germany by the Treaty of Frankfurt am Main.The texts of the six articles suggest that they were written then and there, and were sent to the Daily Telegraph and New York Sun as soon as he could reach postal services – the first articles were published simultaneously in London and New York some nine days after he left France: they appeared on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the two weeks in the middle of September 1915. [A.J.W.]

Notes on the text

In preparing these notes, the Editors have drawn where appropriate on those of the ORG. The original articles were published on the same dates in the Daily Telegraph and New York Sun. The page and line numbers are based on those of the booklet (above) published in London by Macmillan in 1915. Since this is not widely available we have also reproduced the text on this site, with links to the notes. The titles vary in some cases between English and American publication; we have used the English titles in these notes.


©Max Rives and Alastair Wilson 2008 All rights reserved